This is part two of a multi-part series. The next installments will be published in the coming weeks. You can read part one, about annual sales volume, here

Parts two and three of our 2020 SNEWS Retailer Survey are all about manufacturers—the best and most difficult of the bunch. This week, we're digging into the best. These are the companies that respondents ranked as the most pleasant to do business with overall, taking into consideration factors like communication, ease of processing orders and returns, business integrity, friendliness, and more.

A little about our methodology. First, we didn't supply specific criteria for choosing the best manufacturers. We simply asked, "Who do you rate as the best manufacturer to do business with? What makes it the best?" 

Second, the responses you see below were all write-ins. We didn't prompt our survey respondents with a list of manufacturers to choose from. We felt this was the best way to avoid bias and give everyone a fair shot at snagging a vote.

Third, we accepted responses for manufacturers only. Any responses that named distribution companies or resale companies were thrown out. 

Finally, ties for first were accepted. We received a small number of responses that named two or more manufacturers in a tie for first place. Rather than discard these, we accepted and counted them. In a few cases, respondents wrote in their first, second, and third place picks. In these instances, we used only the first place choices.

And now...the results.

The best outdoor industry manufacturers

First place: Patagonia (17.4 percent of the vote total)

To say Patagonia won in a landslide would be putting it lightly. The company received 17.4 percent of the vote total, more than six times the share of votes case for each second place finisher.

Patagonia also received some of the most effusive and passionate comments from respondents. Retailers mentioned the company's integrity, commitment to environmental activism, and genuine concern for dealers' wellbeing as some of the biggest factors that made them stand out.

Below is a sampling of some of the comments we received. 

  • "As much as they got messed up this year, they are always responsive and concerned about the well being of my business."
  • "Integrity through and through. They carefully implement MAP, and follow through. They put their money where their mouths are as far as causes that showcase sustainable business practices."
  • "Their reps are in house so they have the most updated brand information. They were proactive to contact us to put orders on hold and were supportive of our decisions. Our Patagonia rep feels like a partner—he gives us tools to help us make the best choices for our store and our customers."
  • "By a long shot. One of the few that realizes that if we do well, they do well. The entire industry benefits from their environmental activism."
  • "Clean distribution, helpful reps, ethical, great margins."
  • "They always help us out when needed. They care about the small guy."
  • "Hands down, no competition. They are the most truthful and consistent in all that they do. From products to corporate messaging, they are aligned from top to bottom and treat their dealers with respect and with an understanding of our business."
  • "They were very proactive, honest, and realistic about how COVID would affect business moving forward. They did a lot to make it easier on retailers, such as extending terms, carrying over product to future seasons. Took down their DTC for a while."
  • "They are always thinking outside the box in ways to help the retailer and help the planet."

Second place: Cascade Designs, The North Face, and Trek (tie; 2.7 percent of the vote total each)

Here we saw a three-way tie for second place. Each of these companies received 2.7 percent of the response total, which says even more about Patagonia's dominance of the vote. Even when these three manufacturers are combined for second place, Patagonia still received more than double their collective total.

Even so, some of the comments for these companies were glowing. For Cascade Designs, one respondent summed up three key factors that earned his/her vote: "Excellent stock levels. Innovative products. Great variety of brands within the brand."

Another respondent said of Cascade Designs, "They are a design-driven company. They have unwavering focus on their wholesale business and prioritize retailers over their own sales channel. They do not pursue aggressive DTC discounting. Their sales teams are accountable and top-notch. Their internal financial management and ERP makes it easy and expedient to do business with minimal errors that are always corrected immediately."

Two respondents that chose The North Face had identical reasons for doing so. "Even though they are a big company, they are great to work with in regards to marketing and product returns," one wrote. The other echoed the sentiment: "Very supportive for marketing and product returns." A third said TNF was "a true partner who works proactively to assist specialty retailers, even when times are difficult."

For Trek, one retailer praised the company's "incredible range of business development resources," while another said "they have excellent product and usually give us inventory when we need it and good margins."

"Clear communication, easy ordering, and reliable inventory," a third wrote. "Clear ETAs on out of stock products, good quality, low minimums for free freight, user-friendly B2B."

Third place (tie; 2 percent of the vote total each)

  • Bending Branches
  • Hobie
  • Salomon
  • Smartwool
  • Stio

The remainder of the companies named by respondents received either one or two votes each. They're listed below alphabetically.

  • AIRE
  • Altra
  • Amer Sports
  • Aquabound
  • Big Agnes
  • Birkenstock
  • Black Diamond
  • Burton Snowboards
  • Butora USA
  • Darn Tough Socks
  • Deuter
  • Dovetail
  • DPS Skis
  • Fischer
  • Fuji Bicycles
  • Gear Aid
  • Giant
  • HANWAG
  • HOKA ONE ONE
  • Howler Brothers
  • Jamis
  • JBI
  • Kali Protective
  • Kavu
  • Keen
  • Kona Bikes
  • KUHL
  • Liberty Mountain
  • LOOK Bindings
  • Lowa
  • Marin Bikes
  • Marmot
  • Metolius Climbing
  • MSR
  • Nautilus Fly Reels
  • NRS
  • Obermeyer
  • Oboz
  • Old Town Canoe
  • On Running
  • Osprey
  • Outdoor Research
  • Petzl
  • QBL Systems
  • Quality Bicycle Products
  • Rab
  • Rossignol
  • Scarpa
  • Sea to Summit
  • Sherpa
  • Simms Fishing Products
  • Socksmith
  • Specialized
  • Tentree
  • Toad & Co.
  • Velocity USA
  • Yakima
  • Yeti Cycles

Congratulations to all the manufacturers named this year. Check back next week for the third installment in the series: the most difficult manufacturers to do business with.

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